Evil Gal Productions
the book is a war of attrition and I swear to god I will wear it down first
i’ve been sitting here far too long wondering what to write so now i’m writing down the fact that i’ve been sitting here far too long wondering what to write
some really important pieces locked into place today, feeling like maybe I did build the damn thing right
another day off Twitter. think I’ll be ready to be back tomorrow
took a break from Twitter today to readjust my mental, after dealing with so many abusive right-wing assholes responding to that tweet yesterday
it was a good decision. thinking i should make it a regular thing. felt a noticeable absence of a particular type of pressure (blood?)
Ran the whole thing this morning – a personal best! Proud!
Hi! Memba me? Probably not, but that’s okay. I don’t know you, either, Dear Nonexistent Reader, but I am awfully fond of ya. Especially when you keep our secret and never tell me you read any of this.
No blogs on Thursday or Friday, as I fell asleep on the couch at 8:30 and 9:30, respectively – because I’m a fuckin’ rock star who can’t stay conscious past primetime. Saturday was a rarity – I actually went out for dinner with two of my beautiful girlfriends and we closed the place down. (Last time that happened? Possibly last century.) Got home after midnight, so no blog. Sunday…
Let’s talk about Sunday.
I know that the last few weeks I’ve been bitching pretty much nonstop about how tired I am because of THE NOVEL. As I described to my girls on Saturday night, I feel like I’m running a marathon, and I’m at mile 25. Like WAAAAAY too far along to stop, but godDAMN that last 1.2 miles just makes me wanna lie down in the road and not get up. I’ve been working 6- and 7-day weeks for months now – the last two consecutive non-writing days I had were in February, and that’s ’cause Dad decided to pull a Jesus by dying and coming back to life. (I joke now, but that shit was scary as hell.)
Basically, I’ve been working harder than I ever have in my life – in a vacuum, with no validation, no paycheck, and no guarantee of success. After publishing a collection of short stories, staffing six shows for TV, writing umpteen scripts, and selling a few pilots, I can definitively state this is THE most challenging writing task I’ve ever undertaken. Ever. There’s been lots of emotional encouragement from The Finance and friends and family (especially my sibs) – but when it comes down to reality, it’s just an endless succession of days I spend alone in my office, staring at a screen, not speaking. And it’s been going on for months. And months.
I wish I could write faster. My life would be so much easier if I could just write faster. But while I can dash out a blog post in the first person, writing creatively for another character, another world, seems to take me forfuckingever. I know it’s because I’m too much of a perfectionist – I know it’s because I rewrite and rewrite and rewrite shit until I’m absolutely sure the scene is doing what I want it to do – I know it’s because I often psych myself out about whether I can actually finish the goddamn book, so I poke and prod what’s there instead of coming up with more new stuff.
I know ALL of this, and yet… I’m still the slowest writer west of the Pecos.
Bringing it back round to my initial point: the fact that it’s taking me so. fucking. long. to finish this book is really starting to wear me down. I woke up on Sunday morning fully intending to write all day, but (and this is a little weird) I couldn’t stop yawning. Even after three shots of espresso, my brain was foggy and my body felt like it’d been passed through one of those old-fashioned clothes manglers. The thought of going back into my office literally made me want to cry, but instead of crying, I kept yawning. Seriously, my jaws started to hurt.
So you know what I did yesterday?
Absolutely, positively jack-shit-all NOTHING, except for reading, crossword puzzles, and watching TV.
And it was glorious!
One of the big things my girlfriends and I talked about at our dinner was the fact that the older we get, the more we recognize the need for self-care. Making room to recover, to take stock, to re-gird the proverbial loins. In fact, it was having this conversation (thank you, girls – you know who you are – even though you’re not reading this) that gave me enough confidence to step outside my mindless, endless loop and say, “Okay, Mere, you are really scraping the bottom of the energy barrel here. Either take today off – gasp! two days in a row! – or you’re just going to drag ass through the rest of the week, and probably get less done than you would have by working today.”
And for once – though don’t worry, I don’t plan to make a habit of it – I listened to myself.
And – surprisingly approximately no one – I DO feel rejuvenated today. Ready to kick THE NOVEL‘s ass all over again.
NOTE TO SELF: Bail before burn-out.
wrote today, since I lost yesterday to the roofers.
did super fucking hard yoga today (from my normally very gentle yoga teacher, which was a weird shift out of nowhere). helped my focus for the rest of the day, though – really slammed down some words, and have just crossed off three more tasks in my bullet journal, doing work on The Autumn Project and The Long Game. feeling pretty on top of shit right now.
and yes, I’m writing all this down to prove it happened for the next time my brain goes into impostor syndrome overdrive.
my brain is on this weird autopilot.
I fall asleep too early, I wake up too early, I work out, I write, I eat, I fall asleep too early
kind of meh writing day. guess they can’t all be great, but getting nearer the end, the meh days seem almost spiteful.
good writing day. I am grasping you, book as a whole. I have you in my fist.
special one’s birthday today! he didn’t want cake
i want cake
Dammit. Fell asleep on the couch again last night (poor Finance, I am The Most Uninteresting Girlfriend In The World right now; also I drool when I sleep, which is super sexy). Woke up at 12:15 a.m., but for some bizarre reason in my head, it’s “cheating” if I post after midnight. Thus no blog yesterday.
Today’s blog: a lot on my mind. Still writing, but also having meetings on The Autumn Project, while keeping an eye on The Long Game.
Christ, I write like I’m in the fucking CIA.
Okay. At the start of 2016, I created a “slate” of projects to complete by year’s end.
- THE NOVEL
- The Spec
- The Horror Movie
- The Autumn Project
- The Long Game
THE NOVEL‘s self-evident.
The Spec is the “Elementary” script I never finished because I started development on my most-recent (and now dearly-departed) TV show. Considering my plans for this year, it isn’t terribly necessary – but for me, an unfinished spec is a splinter, a mosquito bite, itching, nagging. And given it’ll likely be the only time I write for Sherlock Holmes (my favorite literary character), to not finish it feels like a goddamn waste of a golden opportunity. (Ironically, in the BBC’s “Sherlock”, he and Moriarty have an exchange about J.S. Bach’s inability to live with an unfinished melody. I was like, I get that.)
The Horror Movie is… take a wild guess. Broke the story years ago, want to write and sell the script.
The Autumn Project is… big. It’s, like, REAL BIG. And as I’ve mentioned before, I’m gonna need some time to figure out how to talk about it here. Bear with me.
The Long Game is… a multi-platform universe that takes us into 2017.
…I passed out on the couch.
P.S. Yes, yes, YES, I am terrified to lay out my plans here. YES. People in the industry get hysterical and wide eyed: FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DON’T LAY OUT YOUR PLANS! KEEP THEM SECRET! DON’T TELL ANYONE! Because what if you fail? (Gasp! Like the majority of the white dudes who are still constantly employed?) What if I take a flying leap on all of these projects and end up looking like a total asshole? What then? Well, then, worst case scenario… I’ll look like an asshole, I guess. Difference is, I’ll be an asshole who believed in myself enough to take a bunch of big fucking shots.
Obviously, I can sleep at night.
Boy, my promises to the blog haven’t meant shit lately.
I’ve been sleeping a lot. Dropping out on the couch at 7, 8, 9 p.m. – sleeping for several hours, then taking my meds and dragging my ass to bed for another few hours before I get up at 5 a.m. to go to the gym.
Getting close to finishing THE NOVEL (not close enough, not neeeeearly close enough for my taste [frankly, I’m fucking dying to work on my next project, except I have absolutely vowed in my soul that I will wrestle this sonofabitching book to the ground]), but the final push of forward momentum seems to be sucking out my life-force.
I usually write these blogs at night – but may have to rethink that for the moment, because recently, by the time I’m done NOVELing at the end of the day, I can barely think straight. As my mom would point out, it’s not ditch-digging, but it sure wears me out like it. (I would obviously be a total pansy at actual ditch-digging.)
Started re-reading The Tommyknockers by Stephen King yesterday. Finished Oliver Sacks’ memoir, On the Move, and needed to dive back into some fiction for a while. Tommyknockers is almost 30 years old now (cue sound of my impending death). It’s interesting to see how King’s voice was always there, but in the years between then and now, he’s honed that voice so sharp it’s become utterly unmistakable to me – as well as becoming smoother-reading, faster-flowing – more confident. It’s helpful to go back and see a still-slightly-clunky King (try saying that three times fast); it gives me hope that eventually my writing will evolve, too.
That is, if I can just finish the FIRST book.
Looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow (i.e., past 5 a.m.)
stitched together some important pieces in THE NOVEL today. sometimes I feel like Frankenstein, given the nonlinear way I write. but it’s a familiar feeling, one I know from screenwriting, one that says the end is in sight. holding onto that sensation, using it as fuel.
Went to bed thinking about last night’s blog post.
It’s true, I didn’t write on Sunday – but I did do 3 hours of research for the Autumn Project (something I’ll be sharing very soon – on a day when I have enough time to do it justice). Thus technically I didn’t take a day off –
– so why did I still feel guilty?
It’s a weird thing, being an artist. I feel like if I’m not working towards creating something almost every minute of the day, I’m being lazy, wasting the time and life I’ve been given. Granted, not having a paycheck at the moment has definitely intensified those feelings – but they were already there. They’ve always been there. I keep telling myself – and you, Dear Nonexistent Reader – on this blog that IT’S OKAY TO TAKE A BREAK. That breathers are necessary – vital – to keep the creative juices flowing. Which I believe, absolutely, 100%.
SO WHY DO I STILL FEEL GUILTY?
i took the day off. why do i feel guilty
Been a while since I was here.
(Comparatively speaking, that is. I didn’t blog shit in 2015.)
Tell you the truth, I don’t even really know what happened the last few days. The two-week push in March, followed by a week of the flu and its aftermath (Q: How many gallons of phlegm can one head hold? A: Infinite. Infinite gallons.) left me feeling… ugh. Like, I’ve been working my ass off to be disciplined and motivated and consistent, and I think my brain finally went JESUS FUCKING CHRIST CAN WE JUST HAVE SOME TIME OFF PLEASE? And to be clear, of the four days I haven’t written here, I’ve written THE NOVEL on three of them. So maybe I just needed a break from telling you about it, Dear Nonexistent Reader. From being accountable to anyone but myself. And after all, how many “I’m working/I’m exhausted/I’m crying from insecurity” gifs can one girl post?
But I’m back on track now.
Hit the gym this morning for the first time since Mar. 31 – and oy. Could only run about a mile and a quarter before my knees were all, Hi! The fuck you think you’re doing? It’s the way I sit at my desk when I write, cross-legged or shifted to one side with a foot in the chair. I could probably kill a chiropractor out of sheer fright. When I run and do yoga regularly, all those knee tendons get stretchy and happy. Two weeks without? I age 40 years and start thinking, My bones are porous and will inevitably crumble like years-old Pez.
Okay, that’s it. That’s all you get today. I PROMISE I’ll be back tomorrow…
had an a-ha moment on the Fall Project today, felt quite satisfying.
I don’t get sick.
I don’t get sick.
I don’t get sick.
I say this like a mantra. If you believe, like I do, that your conscious mind has a measure of control over the physical processes of your body (anyone who’s ever done really hard yoga, or battled through a panic attack, would probably agree), then repeating I don’t get sick can go a long way towards keeping your mind from focusing on the sniffles/scratchy throat/fatigue and mentally extrapolating it out to OH NO OH MY GOD I’M SICK I’M DYING. Because in my experience, once you do that, it becomes self-fulfilling prophecy. Every worry sublimates into a physical twinge, every twinge transforms into a symptom. Basically, I believe you can think yourself into certain sicknesses – or at the very least, make them worse or longer-lasting by dwelling on them. (It goes without saying – even though I’m ’bout to say it – that this only applies to certain illnesses. I’m not sitting here going, “Just THINK your way out of cancer, you weakling!”)
That said, I’ve had the flu the last five days.
Granted, it’s the first flu I’ve had in several years, but flu nonetheless.
Much as I’d like to believe chanting I don’t get sick, I don’t get sick is some magical ward – it ain’t. Sometimes there are just fucker viruses you can’t meditate your way out of. But what you can do is choose how to respond to your illness. (And again for the cheap seats [ah hell, who am I kidding? allll the seats in here are cheap] – I’m specifically talking cold and flu viruses right now. You shouldn’t choose how to approach gangrene. Get that shit looked at by a professional, son.) This time, I chose to respond to the flu with a regimen: almost like building bigger muscles at the gym, I decided to build my immune system to drive out the invader. Rather than just “letting the flu take its course,” I decided to actively help my own body fight it.
And now, on Day 5, I’m already back at… I’d say 95%. Which is pretty fucking awesome, considering.
So here’s my regimen, take or leave as you will.
- The suckiest part first: flu gives you fever. Fever is an increase in your body temperature that makes it less habitable for viruses and bacteria, which are temp-sensitive. Naturally, at the first sign of fever, you will be tempted to take something that reduces it, but for the first 24 hours – don’t. Endure your fever. It’s going to suck. Accept that. But let your body do the work it evolved to do. At hour 24:00:01, mainline the Tylenol or ibuprofen. You’ve earned it.
- Drink water.
- If your throat hurts, I highly recommend Cepacol lozenges. They don’t even pretend to be a cough suppressant; they’re called “oral pain relievers” because they numb your throat like a shot of Novocain, which is great when you feel like you’ve just swallowed a bunch of razors. If you have a cough, try cough drops (until Fever Marathon is over, then feel free to dose up on whatever cough/cold medicine you like).
- Drink water.
- Emergen-C: take it with a small amount of water (4 oz.) and shoot that shit down like tequila, twice a day. Once when you get up in the morning, and once around 4 in the afternoon. (The package says you should only take it once a day, but what can I say, I’m a rebel with no respect for authority.)
- Drink water.
- Get extra sleep. Sacrifice plans and obligations to ensure it. Not enough sleep – extra sleep. There’s all kind of research on the healing effects of sleep. Look it up. I’m not Google. *kiss emoji*
- Drink water.
- Flu Yoga! The main purpose here is to keep that lymphatic fluid (filled with those badass white blood cells, or lymphocytes) circulating around your entire body. Do this sequence of exercises three times a day:
Legs up the wall, to move lymphatic fluid into your torso.
Downward-facing dog, to move lymphatic fluid up to your chest and head, and to drain your sinuses
Bridge, to push those white cells into your throat, and stimulate your thymus – a very important lymph node in the center of your chest
Easy spinal twist, which tends to squeeze toxins out of your organs and tissues like wringing a dishcloth
- Drink water.
- You may feel like crap, but try to shower at least once a day. The steam will help with your sinuses, the heat will help your body aches, and you won’t feel like a disgusting slimy sick person, which can make the illness part feel even worse. Okay maybe that last one is just me.
- Drink water.
- Rest. This is different than sleep, because you’re awake (earth-shattering duh). Seek quiet, low-stimulus, low-responsibilty time, if you can get away with it. If not, you can try resting your mind while being active by inhaling and exhaling deep breaths whenever you can. Just, y’know, try not to deep breathe on anyone.
- Drink water.
Doing all these things cut my recovery time by a lot. From a tickle in the throat on Thursday to sitting here at 95% on Monday. Quickest I’ve ever bounced back from the flu, and I believe it’s because I actively worked to help my immune system, rather than just sitting by passively and “getting through it.”
Okay, gotta go jump back into THE NOVEL now. Pretty stoked after being away from it for three days.
— memba me?
Had the flu the last three days.
On the mend now, write more tomorrow.
Tomorrow will be the first day I don’t work on THE NOVEL in two weeks. (I have a meeting for the Super Secret Autumn Project, instead. Woo!) Happy with what I got done in that two-week push – it almost feels like an end is barely perceptible. So. Yay? My brain is tired. I have baked potatoes in the oven. Bacon bits are life.
Glimpsed, for the briefest of moments, the shadow of a rumor of a hint of a suggestion of a light at the end of the tunnel.
Then once again, all was dark.
Finished Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me yesterday.
One of the things I took away from it (besides the obvious: Jesus Jumped-Up Christ, the racism inherent throughout the system – how do some African-Americans even get up in the fucking morning?) is a concept he repeatedly refers to as “the people who believe they are white.” This struck me deeply, as one of my first social awakenings revolved around the idea of whiteness.
That is to say, one fall day during my first semester of college, I had an epiphany.
The epiphany was, “Holy shit, I’m… white!”
Which, okay, sorta flat on the epiphany side if you take it at face value, but what actually dawned on me was the fact that I had never given any thought to my race before – and if that’s not the goddamn definition of privilege, I don’t know what is. Coming to this realization made me feel guilty, complicit, ashamed. What else hadn’t I been thinking about?
(The fact that it took ’til college for me to have this epiphany, I chalk up to my own ignorance and complacency, the white homogeneity of the community I grew up in, and the pervasive background radiation of Florida racism. Except to be honest, it’s less background and more in-your-face-meltingly Chernobyl racism. Look up Sanford, FL. I dare you.)
Of course I never wanted to be a racist asshole – but I hadn’t learned how to listen yet.
(PSA FROM A WHITE GIRL: NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE IMPORTANCE OF REPRESENTATION – NOT ONLY FOR THE SAKE OF THOSE WHO ARE UNDERREPRESENTED, BUT ALSO BECAUSE SEEING THEIR STORIES AND PERSPECTIVES CAN OPEN THE MINDS OF IDIOTS LIKE ME.)
All my feels were tied up in, I don’t want to be racist, I don’t want people to think I’m racist, I try my best to not “offend”.
You’ll notice how, in thinking about race, I was thinking about myself.
Not a good look.
I used to be one of those, “I don’t see color” ninnies – thinking that was the “best” way of combatting racism. It’s not. It’s drizzling caramel over a shit sundae: it may look a little better, but still ain’t nobody swallowing it. In my well-meaning but patronizing liberalism, I made so many unknowing micro-agressive gaffes – fuck-ups that still keep me awake at night sometimes, going, “WHY? WHY DID YOU EVER THINK THAT WAS OKAY? WHY WERE YOU SO FUCKING BLIND?”
What finally, truly got me “woke”* was social media – hearing the lived experiences of people of color (cough*representation*cough) – from their own keyboards – not neatly compiled as anecdotes in some gate-kept book, or listed as a dry statistics in a government study on race. It was hearing their first-person accounts of their day-to-day journeys navigating a treacherous system purposefully (absolutely purposefully**) set against them. (In addition, the proliferation of phone-cams and the subsequent posting of police brutality/murder videos online – i.e., physical proof of the stories people of color have been telling for years – decades – centuries! – has gone a long way towards opening even the most tightly-squeezed eyes. Revolting that it took snuff films to do that, but there you have it.) If anything, social media has given a voice to those who have been kept voiceless. Or rather, should I say, marginalized people have taken back their long-silenced voices through social media.
Only through listening – finally, at long last – listening to these voices was I able to fully appreciate my own failings. My mistaken assumptions. The very breadth and depth of my own privilege, one that allowed me to “discover” I was white at the age of 18.
Coates talks about “the people who believe they are white” as a way of pointing up the myth behind “whiteness” itself, at least as it pertains to race. People are Scottish and Belgian and Belarusian and Italian and Norwegian – ’cause newsflash: every single fucking “white” person in America ain’t from here – but in America, there is this monolith called “whiteness” that embraces and subsumes all of these ethnic origins, is entrenched as wielder, arbiter and distributor of power, and by its very name defines itself against “blackness”.
But Coates argues the white race doesn’t exist. And I find myself agreeing.
Now I’m having another epiphany.
“Holy shit, I’m… not white!”
P.S. It doesn’t escape me that in writing on a book about racism, I have centered my whiteness. Like I said. Stilll learning.
Obviously I can’t be trusted to miss a single day of blogging, as it leads to subsequent days of missed blogging.
Trying to look at this NOT as a “failure” – though it’s tough to do, as I often set goals for myself, and if I don’t hit them I feel like, “Uggghhh why are you such a useless bag of flesh???” Though that reminds me of something a longtime pal once said after I made a “useless bag of flesh” joke at my own expense.
She said, “Don’t talk that way about my friend.”
It was an instant eye-opener. I realized I’d never call any of my friends “useless bags of flesh” – why did I think it was fine to say shit like that about myself?
Now I hear it in my head (“Don’t talk that way about my friend.”) every time I make self-deprecating jokes. I check myself to make sure I’m not being self-deprecating as a response to insecurity or perceived inadequacies. Which…. I’m totally doing here about missing a couple days of blogging. So we’re gonna knock that ish off right now.
P.S. Pam Grier retweeted me last night. Figured I’d mitigate all that self-deprecation by letting you know MY LIFE IS DOPE.
Well, it finally happened. Made it 77 straight days of blogging, but just straight zoned out last night. Kinda glad I got it over with, though, since now the stress of, “When’s it happen? When are you gonna fuck up the streak?” is over.
I FUCKED IT UP, MA!
Getting those familiar blinders on during my 2-week push.
Gotta remember to open up, look around, do something new – or else stagnate in single-mindedness and be creatively miserable.
Reminder to self: stepping away is not abandoning. Sometimes you have to step away in order to recharge, so that you don’t abandon a project. Art is production AND consumption (but not in an 1800’s cough-your-lungs-up kind of way). Exhale AND inhale. Feed your mind machine.
Day 1 of a two-week push on THE NOVEL.
No appointments, no meetings, no social engagements for the next 14 days.
Okay, I’m obviously lame and not going to get any work done until I get this out. So.
Today Disney announced they’re shooting a fifth Indiana Jones movie, and I got really frustrated. Truth be told, I’ve been frustrated – continuously – for the last dozen years, where everything is a sequel to a remake to a reboot to a prequel to an adaptation. When a studio focuses all its financial resources on tentpole movies – big-budget CGI-laden kung fu superhero action flix – then it means dozens – literally dozens – of smaller movies aren’t being made. Which means fewer jobs for fewer people, up and down the line. Fewer voices heard in the agora, fewer perspectives, fewer stories, fewer everything.
And it’s not even that studios believe in all these (what I call) “iteration movies” – not creatively, at least. They believe in the movies’ power to make money, surely. But as for believing in them artistically, believing in their integrity – feeling sure of the truth of them – I’d argue that’s impossible.
Because I’ve seen some of those movies.
This morning someone tweeted a mock Indiana Jones and The Temple… movie title I found funny, so I responded with my own:
Indiana Jones and Aw Fuck It I’m Too Old For This Shit
Now, not that I need to explain myself to you, Dear Nonexistent Reader, but I’m totally about to explain myself to you, because something happened after that and it threw me.
The “Aw Fuck It”? <— that’s me. I just like the word fuck. I like how unladylike it is. I say it a lot. I try not to say it around children but it’s a struggle.
“I’m too old for this shit.” <— that’s Roger Murtagh (Danny Glover) in Lethal Weapon. (Point of fact, it’s the running joke throughout the entire four-movie series, back in the old days when memes were called taglines. But I digress.) Murtagh says, “I’m too old for this shit” about himself – but since he’s a good cop who keeps coming back for more, it’s meant to be ironic. Turns out he is indeed not too old for this shit. Anyway. I hear the words, “I’m too old for this shit”? I see Danny Glover. So, I guess, congratulations, Danny Glover? You get your own personal niche in my brain? Sorry about the accommodations?
After I tweeted my mock title, someone took offense to it and accused me of punching down.
Now, I’ve been called a bunch of colorful things on Twitter, but “ageist” was never one of them. (Box now checked.) I mean, I’m 41 years old – I’m starting to have serious concerns about neck wattle – but with that wattle comes a certain… je ne sais quoi, a “fuck you, I’ve done time, muthafucka” mentality. It’s not that you care less about other people’s opinions – just that they don’t have as much sway over your own emotions.
But this got my heart racing a little.
First of all, was I being ageist?
The flat answer is well yes, elementary, my dear Watson, you have deduced that part of the joke.
But the other part of the joke involves recognizing that both Ford and the Indiana Jones movies are long in the tooth. And Indy movies are tentpole movies – big-budget CGI-laden action flix – thus, because of yet another iteration, there is original art out there that will never be seen, featuring new voices and new talents. I’m not positing this as a hypothetical, I am stating it as categorical fact.
Thing is, Twitter only has 140 characters.
Long story short, I was unfollowed. But it still bothers me. I try to think, If Helen Mirren had starred in four action movies and was doing a fifth now, at her age (three years younger than Harrison Ford, btw) – would you have said, Aw Fuck It, I’m Too Old For This Shit?
But then again, we’ve never had a female version of Indiana Jones (unless you count Ripley, all hail Ripley!). Hell, we rarely have a Female Action Hero With Her Own Story these days.
And until Hollywood stops with the iterations, I doubt we will.
Ran 2 miles this morning. I know for accomplished runners that’s like, pft, but I haven’t run since my dad decided to drop dead in a gym (he got better!) back in February. I alternate between loving and hating running, which is to say, I dread it every single second right up until I start running – then I think this sucks for long stretches of the run itself – and the minute it’s over, I think, I love running.
Nice Sunday. Lazy wake-up, greasy breakfast, venti mocha, 4 hours of writing.
So I learned this visualization in yoga a few months ago.
When doing any kind of meditation – and in case you don’t get bendy, yoga is simply a form of moving meditation – we work towards a state called “mindfulness.” Mindfulness is perhaps more popularly known as “being in the moment” – and in order to be fully in the moment, fully present, fully mindful, we must release all thoughts about our past and future.
Yet it’s important to remember that “being in the moment” is a verb, not a noun. Mindfulness is not an achievement, but a process. A conscious and continuous process of letting go of past/future thoughts, whether those thoughts are plans, memories, daydreams, worries. All these we must let go of in order to truly be in the moment, to glimpse mindfulness however briefly.
I used to get very aggressive with myself about it (PSA: kinda counterproductive for meditating). I would think, STAY IN THE MOMENT, STAY IN THE MOMENT, STOP THINKING ABOUT THAT, NOW STOP THINKING ABOUT THAT, YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BE CONCENTRATING, MAKE YOUR MIND GO BLANK, WHY CAN’T YOU DO THIS, HOW ARE YOU ARE A FAILURE AT YOGA NOBODY FAILS YOGA
Well, turns out it’s very difficult to aggressively let something go.
When I finally figured that out, I knew I needed a gentler way to dismiss my past/future thoughts, and this was the visualization that helped me:
Imagine every thought that crops up – I have the dentist on Friday, how am I going to solve this work problem, remember that time when I was mortified, I wonder if it’s too late for me to be a teen model – each of these thoughts is actually a large soap bubble. Slowly, slowly these bubbles rise into the air, but they can be easily popped by the touch of a feather. The feather is your conscious mind – light and unattached – instantly dissolving the thought and scattering it to the winds.
Do we have any milk at home?
Will I still be doing yoga at 50?
I wonder what happens on Penny Dreadful this season?
Seeing it helps.
Now I’ve noticed while writing THE NOVEL that I need to do this same work – this process – in letting go of ideas. I mean, I have hundreds of ideas a day (who doesn’t?). Every sentence is an idea. Every variation on every sentence is an idea. Every description and action and line of dialogue are ideas. And too often I’ll find myself stuck on one, trying to work around it, trying to massage it, trying to get it to feel organic. I spend an inordinate of time doing this. A lot. Way more than is actually productive.
So I think I need to conceive of these ideas more as soap bubbles – knowing there will be hundreds of others floating up, unceasingly, there always are – and popping the ones that aren’t serving me, rather than trying to force them to serve me. (Ah, there’s that aggression again.)
Good talk, Dear Nonexistent Reader. Good talk.
reflex response to camera pointed at me
i flip the bird really weird. i mean.
what is that thing i’m doing with my other fingers?
do i think my middle finger needs buttressing?
this is my zen garden.
plants vs. zombies 2 has been my go-to zone out for this week.
(Recent mortal thoughts got me wondering where I’ll be in four more years. Given Bergson‘s theory of duration, it could be a millennium or a minute from now. Kinda hooked on the Bergson thing. The last couple weeks, the intensity of time…)
That was Sacheen Littlefeather yesterday.
I had to leap over #OscarsSoWhite. Leapt over the show, too, sat in bed playing Plants Vs. Zombies. I know some people thought a boycott was ridiculous, and I confess, there were times I felt ridiculous. Drawing my fingers across my iPad, planting lima beans that shoot laser beams from their eyes, my sad little solo protest felt… well, “naive” would be a nice way of putting it. But I can’t deny it also felt like an act. Like intent. And okay, the road to hell… But somewhere, at the heart of things, I have to believe there is space for honest hope. And if you can turn honest hope into enough acts, maybe eventually that matters.
Also I watched Lady Gaga’s performance for Best Song and it was amazing so what I’m saying is I’m a complete fraud with no integrity.
Now back to the story where my dad is in the hospital waking up out of the medically-induced coma we were afraid he was never going to wake up out of without brain damage because he went so long without oxygen. Because I think I come off much better in this one.
(Yes? No? ‘Bout the same?)
That’s how my mom told me my dad had woken up.
Over text, because we’d left the damn hospital because they said we could leave the damn hospital.
They said he wasn’t going to wake up. At least not yet.
They said once they started the warming process (his body had been chilled down to a cozy 33 degrees Celsius, which is… I don’t know, Higher Number But Still Pretty Low in Fahrenheit), it would be at least 12 hours before we’d know if Dad was still in there. They were slowly weaning him off the Propofol at the same time. Nine tomorrow morning at the earliest, they said.
(“They” were a big part of the experience. A lot of people – you wouldn’t believe how many people – go into They, but in the end, all of those individual people come down to They.)
Mom stayed at the hospital. He woke up three hours after we left. Hence the text.
The day after, they moved him to a private room. He had his birthday in the hospital – we brought him cards and flowers and grocery-store balloons tied with ribbons (remember those?), and I told him it was his ReBirthday. He said it was better than an Afterbirthday, then asked me if I thought the cardiologist looked like a young Harold Ramis.
I feel like I should write,
And here is the lesson I learned from this life-or-death ordeal…
Except I’m not sure I’ve shaken one out yet.
It’s not for lack of material – rather, there’s so much to unpack, I’m kinda afraid to open the suitcase. Call it Reverse Pandora Syndrome: I know there’s a bunch of scary shit in there, and I have very little interest in exposing it right now.
Except that means hope lives in the suitcase, too, thus in the end the fucking thing must be unpacked.
(What bizarre ramblings I subject you to, Poor Nonexistent Reader.)
I know, Dad. They’re coming. The doctor is coming. They’ll be right here. I know. Just a few more minutes, Dad. Just a few more minutes. Almost here. Almost here.
Clearly, my dad wanted the tubes out.
He was still doped out of his fucking gourd – we’re talking Michael Jackson juice – enough dope to put down a class of first-graders. But he kept trying to reach his mittened hands up to the tubes running down his throat. They’d put these strange cotton mittens on him the first time he nearly yanked the tubes out. The wrist restraints happened after the second time.
The nurses were saying, soon, the doctor will be up soon, any minute now, I just paged him, he’s coming, and the whole family translated that to dad in rotation, each of us taking our turns making promises, any minute now, real soon, as the minutes stretched out and on like some awful extended remix of Waiting for Godot, with the added bonus of knowing the longer it took that cardiologist fucker to show up – and will he? will? he? ev? er? show? up? – the longer someone you love is in pain. Also, Christ, the body heat. We were seven adults – one of us lying in a futuristic hospital bed like something out of Alien – in a room only slightly larger than a parking space. (I remember thinking the first night that it didn’t bode well they let all six of us back at once.) We were all wearing yellow surgical masks, inhaling and reinhaling our own hot breath…
There’s a French philosopher named Henri Bergson who has this theory called duration – which is hella fucking complicated and most of which I don’t understand. What I do grok boils down to this: some moments, especially emotionally intense ones, can feel like they last longer than they really do. For example, the time between my dad regaining semi-consciousness and the removal of the tubes was approximately 283,000 years.
That lucky bastard doesn’t remember it AT ALL.
Turns out coming off Propofol doesn’t happen all at once. You don’t just click and suddenly you’re awake. It’s a tidal, ebbing-and-flowing return to consciousness – a process that can erase chunks of your memory, and temporarily prevent you from making new ones. Which was why my dad told me at least five times that the cardiologist looked like a young Harold Ramis. Which, okay, I could see – but frankly I was more focused on the “young” part.
As in, I was almost positive this dude was younger than me. And let me tell you, thinking of any doctor – much less the doctor responsible for your father’s life – seeing him as a “dude” rather than a “sir,” is more than a tad unsettling. I wanted to ask the kid for a badge of some kind. Like, a merit badge, maybe.
It’s obviously gonna take me a little longer to write this than I thought, Dear Nonexistent Reader. Kinda processing it as I go. Trying to ease back, not push myself too hard right now. I lost four pounds last week, so I’m eating a lot of Girl Scout Cookies to build back my strength. I could totally win a merit badge in that.
I sat outside a Starbucks drinking coffee with my dad yesterday.
Which was weird, because he died last Wednesday.
The trainers found him face down on the gym floor, blue. No pulse.
~A moment of thanks for quick thinking, for cell phones, for 911, for CPR, for in-house defibrillators, glory hallelujah for that last one especially. A moment of gratitude for the people who could have been afraid, who could have stepped back but instead stepped forward and never gave up on my dad. My thanks. My thanks. My unending thanks.~
Then he went and arrested twice more in the ambulance, and got shocked back both times. I told him over coffee this meant he’d already died on me three times, so if he was considering doing it again, he could fucking rethink that shit. (Yes, those exact words. Not a bunch of delicate snowflakes, my family. We’re more… whatever the opposite of snowflakes are. Steelflakes. Cactusflakes. Twinkie filling, crunchy on the outside.)
The odd thing is no one really knows what happened. You know, Right Before.
I keep thinking if it was a thunderclap – BOOM! – the kind of massive heart attack where the doctors tell you, “He was dead before he hit the floor” (and how the hell would they know? anyone who knows is too dead to tell you) – then my dad would have had more injuries to his face. A broken arm. A cracked skull. If he locked up so instantly, taken unawares, he wouldn’t have had time to brace himself for the fall.
But his glasses were bent. Not broken, just bent. And just the one ear. He didn’t even have any bruises, except the ones the medical staff gave him with their numerous and necessary IVs. At one point my brother counted 12 separate bags hanging from the multi-tiered pole, and as I took in the whole picture, the ghoulish writer in me suddenly perceived it as this bizarre live-embalming process, and silently I hated myself for it. Oh no, not for picturing my father being live-embalmed – but for thinking, “Hm ACKshually that’s an interesting idea…”.
Here’s another weird thing: they froze him.
Turns out there’s a protocol to preserve brain function after a heart attack called “targeted body temperature management.” I had to look that up five seconds ago, though, ’cause last week I didn’t give a shit what it was called, as long as it meant a bigger chance he’d wake up out of the coma.
The cooling process involved these blue rubber pads strapped all over his body – pads with icy water running through them, cooling his flesh, sending the blood away from his extremities, into the core of him, up to his brain. The cardiologist said they follow this protocol when they think the patient has gone a significant amount of time without oxygen.
My mom’s a nurse.
I’ve watched 8 seasons of House and 11 seasons of Grey’s Anatomy. I’m just saying, worst case scenario, I’m pretty sure I could accurately place a chest tube.
We both knew what “significant” meant.
Before J. and I left for the airport (special shoutout here to the beloved, because holy shit dude, was I a wreck, did you notice?), I wanted to download a bunch of music on my phone to play for my dad. Texts were flowing back and forth between the siblings like water – a doctor’s update, a flight itinerary, an “omw”. My sister texted that dad was in a medically-induced coma, and I’d heard that sometimes people in comas can hear you. Or they respond to music. Or something. I was kind of grasping at straws, grasping at Bowie and CCR and Pearl Jam (no, seriously), pulling the songs down into my phone through the airwaves, like gathering the ribbons tied to grocery-store balloons. They were tethers, something to keep me from flying off. When I got there I put the phone on his pillow, by his ear. I kept checking it, thinking it wasn’t playing. I told him if he’d come back I’d take him to a Bears game. Nothing you do makes sense, so you know. And everything’s gonna feel a little strange, left-of-center, or too small, or you’ll feel too calm, or like it’s not really happening. J. told me it was normal, so I believed him because I wanted to.
(Whew. I’ll have to finish this tomorrow, Dear Nonexistent Reader. I’m wiped.)
brain: all you have to do is just sit down and write it!
Writing in the morning today (as opposed to the evenings, when I usually get here), hoping to maybe limber up the old frontal lobe. Went to the gym this morning and came out feeling like I was on Xanax. Don’t get me wrong, endorphins usually FTW, but I nearly carried my dirty gym clothes into Starbucks, so clearly I’m a little foggier than usual.
Had a nice weekend. Valentine’s Day was especially awesome – not because we went out and had a fancy dinner, but because my beloved actually drove to the fancy restaurant and got our meals to go. (INFINITELY BETTER than getting dressed up, slapping on the war paint, and sitting in a room full of strangers.) So we got to eat our fancy food curled up on our comfy couch watching a movie.
art by Nidhi Chanani
Granted, that movie was “Bridge of Spies” – not the most romantic flick, but we’re running out of screeners.
Can I just say something about “Bridge of Spies,” though?
HOLY FUCKING WHITE MEN
I get it – historical accuracy, blah blah – but I’m pretty sure I never saw a *single* actor or actress of color with a line. Also, here for your reading pleasure is a list of every credited female role in the movie:
It’d be funny if it weren’t so goddamn depressing. I mean, SPIELBERG. The one man in town who could literally do anything he wants – anything – “Spielberg” and “yes” are always said in the same breath – and this is what he gives women?
UPDATE: I just posted this list on Twitter and got swarmed by Historical Accuracy Bros insisting that it was TOTALLY CORRECT to only focus on the white men because HISTORY. (Ignoring, perhaps, that there might be more than one side to a story? Hmmm.) The good news is, I’ve already implemented my New Year’s Resolution and kicked out the boors at the party. Buh-bye-block, Bros. Go back to your monomaniacal little circle jerk of hatred.
UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: Okay, I feel limber enough to go write now.
Did some free writing on a completely different project today – feel like it was a great palate-cleanser. Excited to sit down on the book tomorrow.
made… it… to… the… end… of… the… week…
Realizing what the last line of your book will be:
I know, Dear Nonexistent Reader, that not reading this blog must be tiresome right now.
I’m just wrestling the novel, day by day. Every day I do as much as I can possibly do – and yet every morning I sit back down at the desk with more to do. I suppose it’s a good sign that I’m still interested in the story – that every day I learn a little more about her, about the story structure. It’s a real trick, balancing and contrasting the timelines for the most resonance. Thank god for Scrivener giving me a way to visualize it all.
This has been a paid promotion for Scrivener, Inc.*
* not really. But I’m open to getting paid, for sure. No problemo. Hit me up. **
** did that sound desperate? ‘Cause I’m totally not desperate. At all. Like, at all. AND I NEED YOU TO KNOW THAT
“Formation” dropped today. It’s goddamn fantastic – but now I’m hearing rumblings that Beyoncé might have used some indie footage without permission or compensation from its director/producers and I’m torn. I’d like to hear both sides, but I’ve seen the original footage and it is in the video. Hoping there’s some kind of mix-up, ’cause if not, that’s fucked.
In Which I Sing Sia’s “Chandelier” Into The Dictation Mode Of My iPad And Now I Am Dying
Patty girls don’t get hurt can’t feel anything when were a lot of push it down push a dog hey hey I’m the one for a good time call phones blowing up the ring in my doorbell feel the love Field hello 012-3123 drink 123123 drink 123123 drink throw them back to that I lose count hi swing from the chandelier Augmon say hi hi hi hi hi hi August swing from the chandelier the sand and sun is up mama less better get home now better run from this year comes the same here comes the saying 012-3123 drink 123123 drink 123123 drink come on back to the Lilo’s got out on a swing from the Sandalee the sun doesn’t exist like it doesn’t say hi hi hi hi hi hi mom this morning well I won’t give up on tonight you won’t look down won’t open my eyes keep my glass bowl until morning because I’m just holding onto tonight hold me I’m holding on for dear life won’t look down on open my eyes keep my glass will until morning lie because I’m just holding onto deny onto the night
I had a coworker once, another TV writer, who had a picture framed behind his desk. The picture consisted of two panels: one panel showed an open book with rose petals resting on the pages, and the other panel was an open book with rusted iron nails on the pages. That’s the difference between a good writing day and a bad writing day. I call bad writing days “Nails on the Page” days.
reading the fake-Stieg-Larsson book, The Girl in the Spider’s Web – the one Larsson never got to write, so they hired another guy to work off his outline – and i’m so fucking angry. not only is the voice off (which was to be expected, though hopefully minimized) – but it’s way off, and in a particularly annoying, patronizing way. Lisbeth Salander is all wrong – she’s already let one abusive guy walk (would never happen), she’s all… hollow inside – there’s no primal fury, no rage-fueled drive. the new male characters that are introduced are almost *painfully* performative in their masculinity – everything is a dick measuring contest. it’s been a while since i’ve been so angry at a book; i think because Lisbeth is one of my favorite literary characters, and they’ve just fucked her story all up. think i’ll be sticking to the original trilogy. how disappointing.
Octavia E. Butler
“So be it. See to it.”
been sitting here five minutes not knowing what to write. completely brain-dead. started barest of work on next project, organization only. can’t let myself enter that mindframe yet when THE NOVEL’s tone is so different. still, feels nice to have another outlet, another signpost on the road that says This Way Forward. i can get a certain tunnel vision when it comes to my work, sometimes to my detriment. it’s as if i’m afraid if i turn away even for an instant, all my hard work will crumble into dust – as if i’m keeping it alive through sheer force of ATTENTION. but then i try to remind myself, you have to be open to receiving at the same time you’re producing – after all, you need fuel for the creative fire keeping you warm through those cold dark nights of the soul. and whether you find that fuel in noodling around another idea, or watching a movie, or taking a walk (i’d avoid it; you have to go outdoors), i guess as long as you feel confident enough to be able to look away – even for an instant – that’s a good sign.
Another day at the novel-writing office…
I can’t believe it’s almost the end of January already. I feel like we just turned the corner into the new year.
Read a friend’s original pilot today, and was surprised to find myself wishing I were working on a screenplay right now. (Well, not entirely surprised, of course – at this point in THE NOVEL, I’d pretty much rather be writing anything else.) It’s been a while since I’ve felt that genuine hunger for the medium. I guess so many years in television, writing other people’s stories, in other people’s voices – trying to sell, trying to be bought – I miss a purely creative experiment in form. It’s been a long time since I actually got to write an original screenplay, but…
…oops. Now there I go almost telling you all my secret plans. Guess you’ll have to stick around through more of 2016.
i got nothin’ i got nothin’ i got nothin’
thinking about getting my next tattoos, looking around at fonts. want something in cursive, simple, but elegant. googled “elegant cursive font,” came across…
think this one is called “Coded Message From The Germans”
Breakfast with a lovely lady today.
Talked about art, writing, life.
Drank 4 gallons of inspiration.
Rocked the super hard yoga today.
Laid waste to my word count.
This statue is called “Triumphant” by John Currie
Dear My Writing,
HA! I beat your ASS today! See you tomorrow!
-Your Lord And Conquerer
Went to lunch with good friends this afternoon – friends who had run a half-marathon earlier in the day what the fuck and were headed off to see a show later are you fucking kidding me?
I took a shower.
Oh yeah. Feelin’ pretty good about myself.
Less gray today. Let’s hope it’s a change in the weather.
Have had the gray blahs the last couple days, like clouds the weatherman didn’t forecast, unexpected and gloomy.
Feeling a familiar weariness. Not bodily tired, not thoroughly exhausted, but an inevitable draining sensation, like a double portion of me is being poured out during the day to keep the engine chugging.
I keep working, though – I keep writing – and for this I’m grateful. I’ve gone through gray periods before where the work dries up – where the fog gets too thick to think through. Right now I’m holding the line in the ways I know how: getting sleep, working out, yoga, meditation, meds. Maybe I’m also just willing myself forward, but a lot can be said for will. For mind over mood. Sometimes discipline can be your backbone when your own goes gummy.
Hoping this will pass – maybe it was Bowie, maybe it was Rickman – maybe it was the 1-2 jab-cross. Maybe it’s too much info dump on Twitter (will Hollywood ever get #woke? ever ever? forever ever?). Maybe it’s paying too much attention to the news (I can’t even listen to Trump’s voice anymore; a clip from the GOP debate aired while I was on the treadmill this morning and I had to yank my earphones out; I couldn’t stand it). It doesn’t feel like Depression, capital D, but it’s a little more than wobbly.
Oh! What an excellent place to introduce my 100% Scientifically Accurate Mood Scale For Diagnosing Depression in Mere Smiths! The tiers are, in increasing order of severity:
- gray blahs
- navy blues (for business wear)
I suppose if there’s any benefit to be accrued by having a recurring illness, it’s that after a while you know what to look for – what to feel for – and while it’s not Candyland Play Palace, it’s not Terra Incognita, either. I think that’s why I can make jokes about it – why I can keep working – even under the gloomy cover of the gray blahs. Because I’ve been here before, and emerged…
…every single time.
So I have faith. In myself. In my resilience.
Life is a collection of nested cycles. I’m learning how to mindfully follow the cycles rather than blindly fight against them.
So far so good.
wish you coulda stayed a little longer
Good writing day. Bout to watch…
…for the fifth time.
After five years, I’ve finally started blocking people on Twitter.
I know, I know, I’m super late to the party – but now that I’m here, I ain’t leaving ’til the music stops and the lights go on. I’mma shut this muthafucka DOWN, y’all. But if you’re wondering why it took me so long to get here…
I don’t mind dissenting opinions. In fact, I appreciate them, count on them, as they often help me clarify my own position or (sometimes – gasp!) even change my mind. I realize this is a strange concept vis-à-vis the Internet – lots of people like to stay in their comfy hidey-hole and never be challenged – and god knows I can still crawl in there myself, when the world’s insanity is so incredibly loud there’s no other way to turn it down (helllllo, Trump). But in general, differing opinions never threatened me much – I guess because I was such an opinionated bitch to begin with. (Or at least, that’s what Hollywood has been telling me ever since I got here. Luckily, fuck them.) I think that’s what delayed my arrival to the Block Party – somehow I’d decided people spouting rando shit at me on Twitter was just the price I paid for not living in an echo chamber.
But it’s a brand new year, with brand new decisions to make, and here’s the latest:
I am no longer willing to expend my emotional labor in edifying, pacifying, or engaging people whose sole purpose, it seems, is pointless shit-stirring. I don’t know what kind of college you go to for that, but let me tell you, some of the folks I’ve dealt with must have fucking master’s degrees in Shit Physics.
To return to the party metaphor, I never realized how much time I spent simply enduring the boor in the corner, allowing him to monopolize my time, preventing me from talking to my friends, from discovering new ideas – simply because I was too busy trying to convince the boor that, hey, maybe you could try, I don’t know, not being a boor? Wouldn’t that be great?
But now, my shrink would be thrilled to know that I have finally reached the realization that Boors gonna boor – and it’s not my responsibility to transform them into thoughtful, productive human beings. Nor should I feel bad for drawing a No Boors Allowed circle around myself. I can still take in and debate dissenting opinion – but what I don’t have to do is sit there and let a boor yap at me when he actually (🙄) has nothing substantive to say. From now on, I’m not gonna walk away from him – I’m gonna boot his ass out of the party.
I’ve blocked three people so far this year.
And I’ve still got my dancing shoes on.
quite a lovely Saturday. very low-key. lots of crosswords and Twitter.
J. just made dinner, dirty cheesy eggs and bacon – delicious, despite the inevitable bacon cancer. he whipped it together in the new pan my mom got us for Christmas (she will never give up the hope that some day, one day, one far-flung distant day, i will actually develop a shit about cooking). i love that he makes me dinner.
though maybe he just doesn’t want to starve. i have to concede the possibility.
got a really pretty one today.
when i die, bury me under my thousand half-filled notebooks.
1/6/16 – only time we’ll get to do that all year
yesterday’s entry kind of freaked me out ’cause i spent time doing the THING – the writing THING. the editing thing, the make-a-pretty-thing THING. too much thinking, not enough writing loose. maybe ’cause the rest of the writing day was crappy, i wanted to control and mold at least one THING – but this blog is not that.
i have to remind myself: this is not that.
so downshifting into disjointed life bites…
i’ve been playing this game called “Prune” on my iPad (someday soon i’m going to write an entire entry extolling the beauty of my new fucking gorgeous iPad Pro, a Christmas gift – but i still have loads more things i want to try on it first). i read an article about Prune somewhere online; they said it was low-pressure and kind of meditative, which are two things i figure i could probably use more of, so i shelled out the three bucks to our Corporate Apple Overlords and started playing.
the music’s very soothing – kind of Ambient Zen Garden, if you can hear it – and the game itself is calming, too: after all, you’re pruning trees. that’s it. that’s the game. pruning trees. sure, there are obstacles to get around, but there’s no running or jumping or shooting or accumulation of wealth or points.
i’m liking it a lot.
i think my favorite feature of the game, though, is the ability to take a screenshot after you’ve completed a level – as sometimes your tree’s winding growth can be quite beautiful.
here’s a tree from tonight.
Tough writing day.
Sometimes I get overwhelmed by the new medium: THE NOVEL
(It feels like you should say it like that, in big bold capital letters: THE NOVEL. Or maybe it’s only bold the first time you write one. Maybe the second one gets italicized, the third one… ironic quote marks? Maybe you don’t even care with the fourth one, you just tell everyone you’re writing an article for Rolling Stone. In any case, I’m still on my first one, so it’s really big bold capital letters.)
I cut my professional writer’s teeth on screenplays (which autocorrect just wanted to turn into “screw plays,” proving that autocorrect is already well familiar with the Hollywood process) – and a script maxes out at about 60 pages for a TV show. A feature can run to 120 – but that’s only if the dialogue runs super fast and you’re planning to cut 30 pages.
And all the white space, good lord! A script is more white space than writing – how I long for the halcyon days of telling a story through a 60 page haiku. Now my eyes are positively stuffed with black lines, dark word caterpillars crawling across my vision – rows and rows and rows of unending text stretching forward, stretching backward, page numbers irrelevant at this point.
The medium may have changed, but the feeling is familiar. It’s one I think everybody experiences from time to time, that cresting panic of “what the hell am I doing?’, of “this is too big,” “I got in over my head,” “they’re all gonna find out you’re a huge fraud and turn on you like Carrie in the shower scene, pelting you with tampons as you cry and bleed all over yourself!”
(Okay, last one’s probably just me, but I saw the movie at a formative age.)
Ironic, then, that the silver lining of that panic is its familiarity.
I don’t think I’ve ever written a script where I wasn’t seized at some critical moment by the absolute certainty that I would not be able to finish it. That I was destined to disappoint anyone who had ever counted on me creatively – and (worse), I would disappoint myself.
At first this panic was paralyzing – I pulled all-nighters, trying to make up for the fact that I could only type a half-page before I had to bolt out of my chair and pace and smoke and convince myself to sit back down to type another half-page. And remember – this is a half-page of haiku. When I first started out, my pace was nothing short of glacial – and frankly, it’s only marginally faster now.
But a couple scripts in, I cobbled together a kind of mantra that kept my ass in the chair longer and longer, that eventually allowed me to give up the smokes, to where now I can do all of my panicking-and-recovering directly at my desk. And now I tell myself this same mantra about THE NOVEL.
“You’ve felt this before. You’ve gotten through it. You’ve finished pieces in the past. You may not know exactly what you’re doing right now, but if you keep showing up and keep showing up, eventually you are just going to wear this motherfucker down.
“OUTLAST THIS BITCH.”
I’m watching the new Sherlock again (The Abominable Bride) – and I realized Steven Moffat doing feminism is kind of like a cat bringing you a dead mouse. Like, you know it’s supposed to be a gift, thanks for thinking of me, but in reality it’s just messy and kinda gross to look at?
I’ve been ruminating on this here daily blogging, and already on the third day I’ve figured out that one of the true appeals of the experiment for me – oddly enough – is knowing that in all likelihood this entry is being read by next to zero people. I call this “odd” because most of the writing I’ve done online, I’ve felt a lot of pressure to get out there with the cybermegaphone and shill the shit out of it. (Also I know that no one uses the word “cyber” any more, but “cybermegaphone” makes autocorrect have kittens, and that’s always fun.)
Self-promotion doesn’t come easy for me – in fact, that may be the most under- of understatements I’ve ever written. As Amanda Palmer points out in her book, The Art of Asking, everyone wants to be seen, in an existential sense, but not everyone wants to be looked at. That’s me. And it’s weird and contradictory, because apparently I don’t mind everyone reading my innermost thoughts – but yelling, “HEY LOOK AT MY INNERMOST THOUGHTS!” makes me feel gross, grosser, grossest.
However, when you self-publish, like I have in the past, that sort of floggage has to come with the territory. You’ve got no publishing house boosterism, no PR flack – it’s just you and your cybermegaphone, screaming “Look at meeeee!” through gritted teeth and bone-rattling fear (with just a soupçon of nausea). And sometimes it’s not even cyber-, and sometimes you don’t even get a megaphone. If you’d told me a few years ago that I’d be at the Los Angeles Book Fair, chatting up strangers and hawking my literary wares, I would’ve laughed. And cried. Probably mostly cried. Honestly, when I think about doing it again, it still mostly makes me want to cry. But I think I may be ovulating, too.
Anyhow, it’s a strangely pleasant respite to be writing for a potential audience that may or may not exist (which I guess applies to most writers’ audiences, WHY YOU ACTING LIKE YOU SPECIAL, MERE?), but even more wonderful is the relief of not having to “sell it, baby.” Hollywood normalizes this commodification to the point where you feel like writing is only half your job – the other half is the “business” part they never fucking let you forget in “show business”.
Here’s what I would ask of you, Dear Possibly Nonexistent Reader, if you are indeed reading this with Actually Existent Eyeballs:
Don’t tell me you’re here.
Let’s keep this a secret between you and you.
I don’t mean to sound ungrateful – of course I like it when people read my stuff, and I like it even more when they enjoy it – but I have a feeling this experiment is only going to work if I don’t feel a lot of outside pressure about it, hence my decision not to shill. Please feel free to read to your heart’s content – I promise I’ll enjoy it somehow – psychically, karmically – but if at all possible, leave me vacuum-sealed in my ignorance.
I think I can be more honest that way.